Originally published in The Evergreen Review Issue 102 in 1999.
Dictionary excerpt -
Daisy: A first rate person or thing.
Part 1: Daisy
Little girl Daisy just been given fi' dollas to buy the shopping list she has in her little clutch, crumpling it and tearing little lines along the edges. Daisy's ten, has white hair, and black eyes that if they were marbles no kids would play with them. Woefully po' Daisy!
Esther Anaesthesia had a baby because not having one hurt, the absence did, like the not-having of a kidney. A void, and if voids are for anything, they're for filling, so out with the baby and in with motherhood. And the companion story, how Daisy was conceived: in a car by the sea, listening to soft music. How Seamus left five beer bottles and their respective mangled caps on the gravel. The unopened novelty condom (rainbow, flavored), rejected by Seamus (less pleasure). He waits in the parking lot, drumming on the dashboard while she expels the baby and deposits it in the nursery. They celebrate by pushing their car off a cliff. It was like littering but no one noticed.
'Daisy, Daisy, where's your diary? Is it under your pillow? Do you hide it between your breasts? Do you swallow it nightly? These things, Daisy, we want to know.'
'Daisy, be sincere, all this is beyond you.'
'Daisy. Go get me my groceries.'
'I don't want to. It's boring. Why can't you?'
'Because I said so. Anyways, besides, I feel sick.'
'Your face makes me sick. Why you gotta look like that?'
'Show some respect, I'm your mother. Daisy, you was supposed to be sweet and friendly. (A wistful aside): All that pushing and panting for nothing. (She exhales)'
'Leave me alone, Esther! I've had enough of your devious ways!'
'You're wrong. Go.'
Daisy walks on her way and needs stimulus. One mans attempting to fell a tree but having trouble, so she kindly provides the final swing. Daisy walks down the street. Says hello to two ladies drunk on love. Is handed a free ice cream cone but throws it away, it's not her flavor. Waves to a woman out walking her chicken. Three blocks, a long walk. A lost-looking seventy year old asking 'You got any?" Daisy reaches deep down within the soles of her combat boots, removing a weak twenty sack which she sells to him with disdain for forty. He unzips, starts urinating, with Daisy daintily stepping out of the stream.
Daisy's not tall since if she was she wouldn't be ten. And she's not fat: her metabolism. Daisy tosses her head from to to fro in a singsong manner. She whistles and her pigtails have daisychains interwoven throughout. Looks happy, surfacially, at least, but not all is well in Daisyland.
Opens up the door to the toilette ('That's how ladies say it, Daisy. You want to seem classy, don't you?') of some lady whose door she knocked on cause she really had to go. Daisy holds her breath. She has thoroughly decided not to buy groceries. She just flushed the list.
What a fantastic supermarket! Just look down the aisles and you'll be seeing bigness, bigness being a close confidante of betterness. Daisy stands at the end of an aisle and bellows, there's a string connected to two cans and she has one held to her ear so she can hear herself. The string doesn't quiver. The tiles with cross-weaved patterns echo and quake at her power. But of course favor's schizophrenic, and so the tiles convene and cast ballots, the vote unanimous in its desire to converge, all this just to spite Daisy. They're upset because Daisy left a dirty footprint on one of the most popular tiles, that is, the tile with the best connections.
Somehow an earthquake happens. The tiles split and die, sad, open. Daisy follows a crack in the floor all the way to its source. Reaching her small hand into the rift and carrying it along, humming and giggling, glowing, the rift opening up even further, someone's inside, and she just reaching her arm in even further and still laughing. A gust of wind lifts her dress up naughtily. Attempts to look inside but it's too infinite to see anything. Everything is fluorescent orange and turning. Fascinating stuff, but then, as we know, all phenomena must end.
Uniform repetition as the shelves replicate themselves. Numerous copies of the same brand, running on further down for ten thousand shelves, still the same until eventually that brand evolves into another one, but by the time the change comes you've grown so used to it that you don't even notice.
Daisy has money and time, which has to buy something. She wants the fi' dollas to impress her teacher. He's Otto Mesmer and he says she's his special pride and special joy.
(Poor Daisy! She doesn't know heads or tails from love, and all its shifty gifts.)
Daisy is confused, undecided. She walks towards the help, other people. There is a clerk with permed red hair, like someone bled all over a mop and it jumped on his head. He stands behind the conveyor belt with a despotic grin winding from cleft to dimple. Part of his tongue sits on the outside of his mouth, unnoticed.
'What do you have here that's recommended?' Daisy posits cheerfully. All eyes are on Daisy. 'Any merchandise tied in to a current trend? One of those, please.'
Daisy waits stone-faced while the man makes rude gestures of impatience, indicating the not-rapid-enough passage of time, looking at his watch and gesturing for Daisy to remain. At the appointed time he vomits a brochure which he hands her and resumes scribbling all over his forms. He forgets Daisy's too young to read but maybe he doesn't care. She scans the brochure as the friendly letters wave at her, individually singing songs for her, sweet harmonies but then the invisible force fields feel the need to compartmentalize, preventing the individual letters from assembling into sense, leaving Daisy in the dark.
Daisy rope-swings over to a convenient microphone, grabs hold and starts blurting out all drooling and repetitive the same question, 'What should I buy? I have money and I need to buy something.' When up comes a conveniently placed old woman who looks like a prune and says, bubbling, 'Row C. Tell no one of this.' She looks both ways and hides behind a corner.
Run run run. Down aisle down. Finds a nice little vial full of just what she needed. Ambition: 'a drug for changes.' But damned if it's not more expensive than Daisy's fi' dollas. There's a temporary crisis of conscience until the stork flies by and whispers in her ear 'You're still young.' With Ambition still tightly in her hand, Daisy disappeared and was rematerialized.
Dusted herself off, and with vial in hand Daisy went up to an old woman who could with scarce words be described only as a babushka. She wore a scarf which masked her jugular, held a little baby between arm and arm-base. Baby was crying. Old woman's nape was thick. Not even an axe could cut through that thing, you'd probably need a chainsaw if you truly wanted to see her headless! Daisy got her attention by tugging her shirt sleeve and jumping on the end of her shopping cart. This upset the babushka so she started running, speeding the shopping cart up, going fast and faster in an attempt to oust Daisy.
'I don't have enough money for this, but can I have it anyway?' Daisy asked.
'That's just your red dress talking, dear. Don't let ideas like that get you into trouble, because they will, a whole world of it.' Satisfied that their contact was over, the babushka turned her back, picked up her brown broom with dirty bristles, and resumed sweeping the floor. So, Daisy truly offended like she very rarely is, (didn't like the babushka's tone of voice, her looks, and those sweatpants...) she grabs an aerosol can of a currently fashionable insecticide. There's a little blue warning on the label which says 'Use Only If Older Than Daisy.' Then there's a picture of Daisy encased in a red circle with a line through her and a conversation balloon coming out saying 'Don't even think about it, Daisy!' But warnings, instructions? Daisy wasn't born to follow, not rules, not now.
Who politely turned around and who was calmly sprayed in the eyes with the insecticide. The babushka yelped and dropped the baby, don't worry though it's alright because it fell in the dustpan where there was plenty of lint to cushion its fall. Babies should never get hurt, as we all know, even just pretend. The babushka's scarf drifted mournfully to the floor. She sighed and assumed a position on a particularly waxy portion of the floor. Daisy slowly and seductively unrolled her garter from where it began, took off a high heel, spiked it in and rolled it all off and stretched it out, wrapped it around her hands. The babushka lay writhing on the ground, clawing at her eyeballs while Daisy strangled her with the garter, the babushka choking but Daisy was steadfast till she could be choked no more and a little while after that.
(The Babushka is dead! Long live the Babushka!)
Daisy ran out through the door which kindly opened for her. The vial was still in her little clutch.
'We're gonna have a real good time tonight!' sang out Daisy with unredeemed gaiety.
The babushka's body will be discovered. It will be donated to a necrophile, for a fee.
The clerk will go home with some store-bought opium and friends where they'll attempt to replicate the degradation of a nineteenth century orgy. Among others, Otto and Daisy will be in attendance. But Daisy shouldn't be there! Surprisingly, the autopsy on the babushka will reveal that she had been addicted to nutmeg her whole life (snort, swallow, shoot, it don't matter). At one point in time it had been free for the masses. They say she would have died within a week or two anyway. So Daisy's all absolved, as off the hook as a phone in a room where people are copulating.
The insecticide will be restocked.
Esther Anaesthesia will as a lark join the religion of Islam and from there-on-out will always wear a veil. Daisy will never be able to find her again, in her hour of darkness, search as she might. Mecca can be a real lonely place when you're crying, and no one even stops to ask why.
The person whose bathroom Daisy used? That was Solzhenitsyn's cousin. She's going to die soon.
As it turns out, DNA tests performed will prove that Esther Anaesthesia wasn't really Daisy's mom. Daisy's real mom lived in a sock in Delaware and sold powdered horse throats for a living. She told people they were aphrodisiacs, but she was lying.